China to launch first Mars probe later this year

May 28th, 2009 - 7:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Shanghai, May 28 (Xinhua) China’s first Mars probe, Yinghuo-1, is expected to be launched in the second half of this year, an official of the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) said Thursday.
The probe had passed test of the research phase, Zhang Weiqiang, deputy secretary of SAST, told the third Shanghai International Aerospace Technology and Equipment Exhibition that began here Thursday.

The event, which will run till Saturday, included a full-scale model of Yinghuo-1.

Yinghuo-1 will be launched by a Russian carrier rocket, accompanied by the Russian spacecraft Phobos-Grunt. The Russian craft is making a sample return mission to Phobos, one of the moons of Mars, Zhang said.

Yinghuo-1 would go into Mars orbit in 2010 after a 10-month, 380-million-km journey, Zhang said. But unlike the Russian craft, Yinghuo-1 won’t land but would only orbit and observe, the official added.

The 75-cm-long and 75-cm-wide Chinese probe weighs 115 kg and was designed for a two-year mission, according to Zhang.

Yinghuo, which in Chinese means light from firefly, is expected to discover why water disappeared from Mars and explain other environmental changes of the planet, Zhang said.

The project is China’s third major space exploration plan after the manned space project and the moon exploration programme. It was also the first time that China would explore another planet, Zhang added.

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